Sunday, March 23, 2008

Semana Santa with Brandi

So, as most of you know, I had my first visitor to Colombia and it was an amazing ten days. My best friend, Brandi arrived on Wednesday, March 12th. She had an uneventful, but long, flight. She went to school with me on Thursday. She got to see my classroom, meet my students and many of my co-workers. We had a few nice dinners in Medellin with friends of mine and spent Saturday sightseeing and shopping in the city.

This is a tourist place up on the hills overlooking the city.....great views of Medellin

lunch at Botero Park with my roommate Tina.
I just couldn't resist this photo!

We left Sunday morning on a small plane to Nuqui. It was only a 30 minute flight to a very remote village on the pacific coast. After landing at the smallest airport I have ever seen we took a 45 minute boat ride to the eco-lodge where we spent the next 4 days. It was called El Cantil. It had 7 rooms so the maximum occupancy is about 15 and it was only half full when we were there. It was very rustic, remote and amazing. There were no roads, only jungle and beach. We spent our days hiking with guides through the jungle and the beaches. We also did some swimming and snorkeling. The meals were made by the local people and every meal was a treat. Excellent fresh fish every day and fresh squeezed juices that were so yummy. We would actually seem them catching the fish in the morning and bringing it up to the lodge to prepare our meals. Considering how remote we were I was so impressed by the quality of the food. We had brought our own wine since I knew ahead a time that there was not a local wine shop to meet our drinking needs. There was hot springs near by. We slept under mosquito nets, but the bugs weren't so bad. There was no electricity, so we read by flashlight at night. We also had an amazing lightening and thunder show one night. We didn't see a lot of wild life, mostly birds and crabs. The weather was hot and humid (that is an understatement. We both agreed that we have never quite felt humidity like that) and our clothes never dried. But it was so beautiful and relaxing. cars, no motos, no phones, no computers or t.v.'s or even lights, just beautiful beaches and jungles with waterfalls and hot springs and hammocks to keep you occupied. This was truly a unique experience. I would highly recommend it for anyone that enjoys being off the beaten path.

the boat ride

view from the boat

El Cantil.....a view from the boat when we arrived

view from our room

our room

It was fun tucking ourselves in at night
I also enjoyed seeing the jungle when I took a very cold shower
which was never fun even though it was so hot outside

our biggest concern...who was going to get the hammock?

the view from the "dining room"
A rainy afternoon

we took a couple of hikes through the jungle, crossing rivers, walking up very steep slopes,
getting very muddy, sweating like I never have before,
swimming at waterfalls and seeing lots of green

On our way to the natural hot springs we walked through the town. These kids were playing soccer in the street. The sticks are the goals

The hot springs weren't too hot which was nice since it was already so hot outside
but it still felt really good to soak after a long day of hiking

some pretty flower shots

and lots of beautiful beach views

So many times we would be strolling down the most pristine and beautiful beaches and see no footprints in the sand, no people and no one else accept us, our tour guide and our interpreter (oh, yes, that was another amazing part of this trip when we got to the airport and discovered that the lodge was sending someone with us who spoke English to serve as our translator).

But, then there was this walk when we also had the military accompany us. Actually, we saw more military people on this trip than tourists or locals combined. But don't be alarmed. We weren't. It was all good. But the short version of the story was that there were some tourists kidnapped about an hour away from this place about two months ago. We both knew about this before we left, but decided not to let it stop us. So, because of this incident there was heightened military security staying, living, patrolling the jungles where we were. It was kind of weird to be hiking through the jungle and see these guys and there camps and their machine guns and they looked all of about 16 years old. Of course, I spent a lot of time trying to take pictures of them without them noticing. I wasn't very successful, but overall I guess I felt safer just knowing that they were there.

Thank You El Cantil!!!

We returned to Medellin on Wednesday night. We did some laundry (or should I say our maid did our laundry) and repacked for our next stop. On Thursday morning we took a very interesting bus trip (It was an old and very uncomfortable bus and they drive like maniacs, flying around corners, passing on crazy mountain roads, very bumpy and scary, luckily only about an hour and a half away, pretty drive though through the mountains) to a nearby town called Santa Fe. I have been there twice already, but it is a great place to relax. It is a cute, quaint small colonial town with cobblestone roads and interesting architecture. The weather is always hot and there is a cute market that is great for shopping for local arts and crafts. We spent most of the time relaxing at the pool and working on our tans. It was a great way to end the trip. We were there during Holy Week and there were many processions happening day and night.....a little weird, but interesting too!

Our hotel, El Mariscal, in Santa Fe de Antioquia

the view from our balcony
we spent most of our time at the pool

It wouldn't be a vacation without a hammock
our room

hanging out at the plaza

These are photos from one of the many processions that were going on for Holy Week. I didn't get any really good pictures because it was at night. It was an interesting experience. I certainly didn't understand all of the traditions, but there were a lot of statues, candles, alters and, crosses and costumes. All very serious.

Our last morning in Santa Fe we went to this bridge. It was built a long time ago, crossed over a big river, nice views. We walked across it, took some pictures and then it was time to go home.

Thanks for visiting Brandi!
That was one of the best vacations of my life.
I miss you already!

We came back to Medellin on Saturday night and Brandi left Sunday morning. I miss her already, but I am so glad that she was able to visit and I am really looking forward to having more visitors. I miss home a lot sometimes and I really miss my friends and family, but it helps so much to share this experience with my loved ones. Thanks!!